In the Ring with Paolini

A lesson in solidarity with Bottura and Alajmo

Stazione Leopolda - Teatro dell'Opera - Area Ring

When Massimo Bottura and Massimiliano Alajmo take to the stage it is with the acclaim usually reserved for rock stars. But their presence at Taste 2019 is more than just the usual tale of two successful chefs, as gastronaut Davide Paolini, the man behind the meeting, brought them together to talk about a trait that unites them just as much as their passion for food: their commitment to helping those most in need. The title of the Ring was, naturally, "Il sociale nel piatto degli chef" ("Chefs putting community on the plate"), during which Alajmo and Bottura spoke about two charity initiatives that they have been running for several years and which they aim to further expand.
"We are the proof that chefs can be much more than just the sum of their recipes", says the owner of the Osteria Francescana in Modena, describing the Refettorio Ambrosiano project, founded in 2015 during the Milan Expo. It saw a carefully renovated former theatre in the Greco district of Milan transformed into a large refectory, where every day discarded and surplus food is reclaimed in order to feed those with nothing to eat. The cooking is dictated by whatever food happens to come in on the day. And with the added touch of the chefs that take part in the project from time to time, the result "feeds the soul".
The refectory has had an overwhelming effect: similar initiatives have since opened in Paris, London and Rio. And as Bottura himself lets on, another will soon open in Florence.
But it was Massimiliano Alajmo who got the ball rolling regarding chefs and social commitment. Together with his brother Raffaele, he not only runs the Le Calandre restaurant, but is also the creator of the Il Gusto per la Ricerca project, the first to pool culinary excellence in order to raise money for scientific research into childhood cancers. "This project began in 2004 in Padua, as it is home to both the Paediatric haematology-oncology clinic and the Fondazione Città della Speranza, two excellent facilities that give their all to help their young patients", Alajmo says, mentioning the results: in 15 years 1.8 million Euros have been raised and given over entirely to research and children's charities.
"We are fortunate enough to have good lives, it's time to give something back", the two chefs said from the stage, while Paolini took the opportunity to send a message to all the taste experts present at the event: "We can all do our bit in these, as in other social projects". Just follow the example and determination of the "two Maxes".